Why West Chester University?
A Little Bit of History (2009-2013)
In 2010, Upper Dublin's geoscience dual enrollment initiative began with a partnership established with the State University of New York (SUNY) through a preexisting program at the Oneonta campus called the Earth Science Outreach Program (ESOP). SUNY Oneonta created the ESOP in 2004 whereby New York state high schools could apply for dual credit status through the campusís Earth Sciences Department. The programís director, Dr. Jim Ebert, realized both the reality of the AP dilemma and the fact that there were many talented geoscience instructors teaching at the high school level across New York. Unfortunately, these instructors had no vehicle with which to compete with the natural draw of AP science courses. Therefore, Ebert sought to create the ESOP as a partnership between the SUNY community and the high school community where the geosciences would have a chance to engage high school students at the same rigor as the APís with the same chances of gaining college credit at the end of the course.
To date, approximately 12 New York high schools have established dual credit partnerships with SUNY and it has proven to be a very successful program. However, until the Upper Dublin proposal in 2009, the ESOP had never extended beyond the borders of New York. After extensive work and coordination between Dr. Ebert, Dr. Todd Ellis (the programís other director for several years) and Upper Dublin advanced geoscience instructor Rick Schmidt, Upper Dublin High School became the first out of state high school to enter into an ESOP agreement with SUNY, an outstanding achievement for the school. This dual credit agreement was also the first of its kind for any major subject course at Upper Dublin. Between 2010 and 2013, over 100 UDHS students were able to benefit from this partnership and more than a few eventually chose to begin their undergraduate years as geoscience majors.
This partnership set the stage for SUNY to extend the ESOP beyond New York's borders which they did until early 2014 when senior administration (not the Earth Science Department) decided to limit ESOP's reach to New York schools, effectively ending the UDHS/SUNY aprtnership. However, through a fortuitous meeting between Dr. Schmidt and Dr. Martin Helmke, Geology and Astronomy Department Chair of West Chester University at the 2013 GSA Annual Meeting and Symposium in Denver, CO, the stage was set for UDHS's next partnership, this time with West Chester University.
The West Chester University Partnership (2014-Present)
West Chester University offers many advantages to UDHS students as an academic partner. First, many UDHS students matriculate to the school as its location in suburban Chester County offers much to a UD student wishing to stay close to home. This same proximity to Upper Dublin also creates the opportunity for frequent direct contact between the university's professors and the high school for both administrative purposes and for UDHS students, a tremendous plus that was not possible with SUNY. West Chester University is also one of the fourteen institutions that make up the PA State System of Higher Education and has a very active Geology and Astronomy department that could further enhance a partnership between the two schools. WCU currently offers a B.S. degree in Geology as well as a B.S. Ed. degree in Earth and Space Education along with minors in Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Geology and Science Education. It also offers a M.A. in Geosciences. The dual enrollment agreement with Upper Dublin will be the first of its kind for the department and all parties involved are excited about the possibilities of this arrangement for mutual success.
In many regards, the "power" of a dual credit course lies in the higher ed. institution that is granting credit. West Chester University is the largest and highest ranked of the fourteen PASSHE institutions according to US News and World Report statistics. Itís name is widely known in the region and it is a major PA degree granting institution.
Dual Enrollment Course Options
UDHS students will have the opportunity to earn credit for up to four geoscience courses at West Chester University depending on the courses taken while at UD. College credit will be granted through WCU's credit by exam process. Here are the specific courses:
*Special Note: Seniors wishing to earn credit for the second half of AGS 371H or 381H (oceanography and astronomy respectively) must continue to attend class and take a final exam regardless of community study plans. Otherwise, only the first half of the year will be eligible for dual credit status.
Students enrolled in the AGS 371 or AGS 381 courses will actually follow two separate grading scales. While Upper Dublin High School does not recognize +/- letter grades, WCU does so all students registered in the course will actually receive two grades; one for Upper Dublin (to appear on a UDHS report card) and another for WCU using their grading system (to appear on a WCU transcript). The differences between the two systems are shown below.
*A grade of less than a "C" is almost never transferable
Although the AGS 371 and 381 courses are full year in terms of UDHS scheduling, they are effectively semester courses for WCU. Therefore, grades for geology and meteorology (depending on the course) will be determined by the strict numerical average of the first two marking periods plus the midterm (which is basically a final exam for that half of the year). Grades for astronomy or oceanography will be determined by averaging the third and fourth marking periods and the UDHS final exam. Grades used for WCU in no way impact a student's academic standing at UDHS. Both grading systems are used simultaneously and neither affects the other.
Special Note: Again, seniors who are dual enrolled for the second half of the school year must complete the entire course including the final exam regardless of community study or similar activities that take them out of school early.
It is important to reiterate that whether or not an institution will accept either dual credit courses or AP scores is entirely up to that particular institution. Exactly how those credits are applied is also the choice of the college or university. For instance, some schools will not exempt a student from a course even with a high scoring AP exam but will instead attempt to place that student in a more advanced version of the course. Some institutions accept AP scores and exempt a student outright while others do not accept them at all. Other do not accept them if the course is part of a studentís major area of study. By the same token, some institutions will accept dual credit transfer credits directly while some may not. Others may accept the transfer credits and exempt a student from taking a course but the grade of the transferred course does not count for the studentís GPA at the accepting school (this is the policy of Penn State for instance).
In the end, a student who enrolls in an AP course or dual credit agreement with only the intention of exempting out of a college course may not only be disappointed but is also not engaging in these rigorous courses of study for the right reasons. AP and dual credit courses represent a chance to legitimately "test the waters" with advanced curricula of a collegiate nature and to even possibly introduce a student to a future career path. They are often useful in a college selection process but only if they are completed successfully. Make the effort to call a university or check their website to see how they handle AP scores and dual credit (transfer) credits before leaping and make the most out of the opportunity before the real college tuition kicks in.